The Holiday Burnout Survival Guide: Strategies for Stress-Free Festivities

The holidays are supposed to be a time to relax, decompress, and enjoy, right? But do they actually feel like that to you?

If you’ve opened up this post, the chances are, it doesn’t always feel this way…

But you’re not alone.

In a survey by YouGov in 2019, a quarter of the UK population finds Christmas more challenging than the rest of the year, and that it has a negative impact on their mental health.

And the reality is, we can’t always control how the holidays are going to go, or how we are going to feel.

But there are practical, actionable steps you can take immediately to make it more likely that you will get through the holiday period without burning out.

In this guide, discover six actionable strategies to beat holiday burnout and make this season truly rejuvenating.

Prioritise your well-being to beat holiday burnout

When you feel overwhelmed and stressed, your health can be the first thing you cull from your to-do list.

I know that when your schedule is packed and you’re exhausted, the last thing you may feel like doing is exercising or eating well.

In fact, if you have a spare minute, I can guess you’re more likely to grab a take-away dinner and curl up in front of the sofa (me too).

But the reality is, when you put your health first, everything else falls into place.

I teach this principle in my programme REVITALISE, which I created to help corporate professionals to beat burnout and thrive at work. The same principle applies when it comes to holiday burnout.

When you take care of your body and mind, you have more energy to be able to manage the additional workload, to handle challenging relatives, and the constant juggling of competing demands in a jam-packed but haphazard schedule.

There are 2 areas I like to focus on at this time of year: exercise and nutrition.


As a yoga instructor, I usually am quite active teaching classes throughout the week, but over the holidays I take a break, which is an ideal opportunity for me to do more practice of my own.

However, I recognise that you might find that when you are out of your usual routine, it is harder to find time to exercise. But this is the ideal time to support your body in feeling better!

Try not to be too rigidly attached to your current routine. Staying open to changing your focus according to your schedule can keep your feeling healthy and energised, and avoid holiday burnout.

Perhaps instead of your morning gym session you take a walk or bike ride with your family in the afternoon?

Perhaps some gentle evening stretches whilst watching a movie instead of your usual lunchtime yoga class?

Be adaptable and make use of even small pockets of time. Small, consistent efforts can make a significant impact on your overall wellbeing and beat holiday burnout. Your body will thank you.


When it comes to nutrition, I am not a nutritionist and so certainly do not give out advice on what to eat or not to eat. However, I do think it’s appropriate to give some common sense advice, based on the principle of taking care of yourself.

  • It’s not rocket science, but we can all benefit from getting the foundations right…
  • Eat plenty of fresh meals, packed with vegetables
  • Eat christmas choccies in moderation (or at least, not with totally wild abandon!)
  • Take a good vitamin supplement (if suitable for you).
  • If you drink alcohol, do so mindfully, and rehydrate afterwards.

These common sense nutritional basics can go out of the window at a time where seasonal illnesses are circulating and our immune system needs all the help it can get!

If I dare to venture a little further beyond nutritional basics (!) – personally, I also like to support my immune system by focusing on anti-inflammatory ingredients. I love to drink a turmeric tea or latte (like this golden milk drink), or I make coriander seed water which an ayurvedic medicine practitioner once recommended to me!

Navigate social challenges with intention and detachment

The holidays can often bring us face to face with people we would otherwise carefully avoid. Plus, you may have to face longer time periods than usual in close quarters, and tensions can bubble high.
Whilst certain scenarios may feel outside of your control, you can change how you approach these situations and how you react to them.

Before going into a tricky social situation, I find it is helpful to have a plan. I recently listened to Mel Robbin’s fascinating interview with Rebecca Zung, author of “SLAY the Bully: How to Negotiate with a Narcissist and Win”, and her advice for dealing with narcissists I think goes a long way to helping you deal with anyone who you struggle to get along with.

Zung recommends creating a plan, in advance, that is framed in the positive. So instead of thinking “I don’t want to feel triggered / stressed / angry / frustrated”, focus on what you want to create.

Setting a vision in the positive helps you understand what type of interaction you would like to create, rather than focusing only on getting rid of what you don’t want.

Framing the interaction in the positive also puts you back in the driver’s seat. You cannot control the absence of a trigger, but you can control what you bring into an environment.

Set your intention, then let go of the outcome

But yoga has taught me that setting your intention is only one part of the equation. Since you cannot control the outcome, you also need to practise detachment.

Often, setting your expectations too high can lead to disappointment if the outcome you hoped for doesn’t materialise. Or, worst case, you may resent those who have stopped us from manifesting our vision. Instead, focus on what you are bringing into the environment.

Stay focused on the process of bringing your intention into the interaction, and let go of how that intention may play out.

Lastly, consider how you will respond if the social interactions don’t go how you expect. A few handy phrases:

  • I agree that you feel that way, but [insert your feeling here] – Thanks to Rebecca Zung on the Mel Robbin’s podcast for this one!
  • I need to take a few minutes for myself, but we can discuss this later.
  • I can see this is an emotive issue for you, but I insist we discuss this another time, as I am focusing on celebrating the holidays.

You can take any of the above, or think of phrases that work well for you. Reminding yourself of these phrases before you begin a social interaction can also help you stay grounded and in your power.

Create work-free zones to prevent holiday burnout

I recognise that some of you may be working over the holidays, and for others it simply is not always possible to make the holidays a 100% work free zone. However, I would argue that we all need, as a minimum, pockets of time that are a work-free zone.

Whether it’s just a few hours to enjoy a meal on Christmas Day or you can stretch to a full 2-week holiday, any time you can switch off from your work and forget about it for a while is beneficial.

If you feel resistance to switching off, ask yourself: who is setting this expectation?

Is it a self-imposed expectation?
Is this expectation put on me by my organisational culture?
Is this expectation put on me by my line manager?

Once you have identified the source, you can start to identify the consequences… There is a fantastic trick I learned from Tim Ferriss’ Podcast, called Fear Setting.

Fear Setting is where you map out the worst case scenario for a given fear. Then, you can consider what would happen if the worst case scenario occurs.

Often, when you map it out, you realise that you are more resilient and capable of resolving the issue than you think. The question then becomes whether the risk is worth the reward.

It may be that you feel you need to work over the holidays, but if you truly switch off, will your workplace actually fall apart? If it does, can you resolve it when you return?

Practice gratitude to re-frame your mindset for the holidays

Gratitude can help to reframe your focus away from the stresses of the holiday period and train your brain to focus on the positives.

It’s important to recognise, acknowledge and process stressful feelings in order to complete your stress cycle (don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch my free training here).

So gratitude practices are not about ignoring how you feel and adopting a positive, ‘Pollyanna’ mindset that ignores the reality of the world around you. Instead, I find that actively practising gratitude helps me to avoid focusing disproportionately on the negatives, and brings my mindset back into balance, particularly when my external environment has been triggering.

I love the “5 fingers of gratitude” exercise because it’s so easy to do – simply use your hand to count off 5 things you are grateful for.

You can either do this verbally or simply by thinking of 5 things. Five is a manageable number, and the strategy is easy to remember to do.

And because you can do it quietly in your head, you can do it at any time. I like to lie in bed & count 5 things before I go to sleep!

Embrace analogue activities over the holidays

Step away from screens and indulge in analogue activities to help you to relax.

Not all screen time is bad, but much of our screen time is spent on apps which are designed to leave us feeling addicted to dopamine hits.

Apps like social media apps are created to hook us in, and keep us on the platform for as long as possible.

These apps even use psychological theories such as that of intermittent rewards – the same theory that casinos use to get people hooked on slot machines!

But whilst not all screen use is necessarily bad, we already spend so much of our working lives in front of a screen that I think it is healthy to give your brain time to reset.

Fortunately, some of my favourite analogue activities happen to be incredibly popular Christmas pastimes! Here’s a few of my favourite ideas…

  • Play puzzles & board games
  • Go for walks
  • Bake cakes or cook fresh meals
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Get creative with craft activities – make cards, gifts or festive decorations like baubles or wreaths
  • Make music! Sing or play an instrument, or, if you’re not musically inclined yourself, you might enjoy attending a Christmas carol concert

Reconnecting with traditional holiday activities not only gives your brain a mini reset from its (potential) dopamine addiction, it can also be restorative to embrace holiday traditions and indulge in a festive feeling.

Prepare to beat the post-holiday burnout

You stack up your work in the run-up to the holiday so that as much as possible is complete before you take a break. Then, the holiday period comes with a schedule packed with a different set of challenges…

Hosting, socialising, handling difficult conversations with relatives (when are you going to get married? Start trying? Start trying for your next one? And so on…)…

…and before you know it January will be here again, and you will be frazzled. Sound familiar?

There’s a reason we have ‘blue monday’ in January (and yes, it’s mostly due to a UK travel company that coined the term, but I think it caught on because so many people resonated with that feeling of spring feeling far away and no longer having Christmas to look forward to).

So don’t forget to create time for you over Christmas. Does that sound easier said than done? Managing your time is a skill, and you improve it over time and with practice.

But to begin with, I recommend looking over your schedule to free up time. Decline more invites than you think you will need to, so you can give yourself space.

Plus, delegate! This can be as simple as asking a family member to watch the kids for a while, or investing in a dog walker for a few days.

Lastly, use your free time to recover. It can be tempting to use the time to catch up on chores, but you risk burning yourself out further. Take a bath, have a lie down, watch a movie – whatever you enjoy to recharge your batteries!

Wishing you a relaxing, revitalising holiday

By incorporating these strategies into your holiday, you can reclaim the joy and relaxation that this season is meant to bring. Remember, the key is to start small, stay consistent, and prioritise your well-being.

Wishing you a rejuvenating and stress-free holiday season!

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